Baltimore City Councilmen voice concerns over city’s handling of civilian police oversight board

Luke Broadwater The Baltimore Sun, August 21, 2018

Two Baltimore city councilmen on Monday sent a letter to city solicitor Andre Davis voicing concerns over his management of the Civilian Review Board, which investigates police abuse and misconduct allegations.

In the letter, Councilmen Brandon Scott and Ryan Dorsey, who are chairman and vice chairman of the Public Safety Committee, respectively, said they are concerned Davis — whose Law Department recently began managing the board — is limiting the panel’s work.

“We believe a conflict of interest may exist in the Law Department both overseeing the Board, who has the duty to render an opinion as to whether an officer has acted inappropriately, and representing the Police Department, whose employees are the object of the Board’s opinions,” the councilmen wrote.

The Civilian Review Board has not received any completed cases from the Police Department’s internal affairs division since July 19, when board members refused to sign a confidentiality agreement. Members voted unanimously to subpoena about 19 case files from the department.

The councilmen asked Davis whether he has taken actions to curb the board’s independence, including asking members not to communicate with the Department of Justice; not send letters of their investigative findings to victims of police abuse; and sign a new confidentiality agreement.

In a response to the letter, Davis said he saw no issue with the Law Department managing the Civilian Review Board or in asking board members to sign a confidentiality agreement. He said the agreement is merely asking members to abide by state law governing personnel issues. He argued he has not stood in the way of the board issuing subpoenas or conducting investigations.

“I wish to state in no uncertain terms that we are every bit as determined as the members of the City Council, as well as the members of the CRB, the consent decree monitors, and citizens of Baltimore to root out ‘bad cops’ and to bring an end to practices and approaches that undermine the Mayor’s commitment to creating a new era of community-based, constitutional policing for the citizens of Baltimore,” Davis wrote.

Davis, a former federal appellate judge, emphasized his commitment to cracking down on police misconduct.

“When I voluntarily retired from my lifetime appointment as a federal judge a year ago to join Mayor Pugh’s administration, a principal motivation for doing so was to join in the City’s effort to reform, indeed, ‘clean-up,’ the Baltimore City Police Department,” he wrote.

Tension between the city’s Law Department and Civilian Review Board arose in April over the case of Keith Davis Jr., the man who has been charged in the shooting death of a Pimlico security guard — and was shot by officers prior to his arrest. Davis has maintained his innocence, and his latest trial was declared a mistrial in June. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is considering trying him a fourth time.

The Law Department says the Civilian Review Board released findings in its investigation of the case that should have been redacted. The board found officers used excessive force and recommended two be terminated and two others receive a 30-day suspension.

In his written response to the councilmen, Davis wrote that conflict between the Law Department and the Civilian Review Board is overblown.

“What we have required, in accordance with our interpretation of Maryland law, is that confidential information not be included in such letters,” the former judge wrote. “This contentiousness should stop, and it should stop now. The members of the CRB should sign the Confidentiality Agreement and get on with its important work.”

Dorsey said he believes Davis’ logic is “reasonable for somebody in his position, but the fact remains that the board is statutorily entitled to receive documents that are presently being withheld by the police department, at the request of the City Solicitor.”

“His sense of duty has clearly led him to a creative attempt to make up new rules, which are now inhibiting the Board’s execution of its duties,” Dorsey wrote in an email. “I’m interested in what might be possible if the same creative energy might be applied to finding the way to provide the Board the independent counsel it should have, rather than simply invoking barriers to it.”

Luke Broadwater The Baltimore Sun, August 21, 2018, “Baltimore City Councilmen voice concerns over city’s handling of civilian police oversight board”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-ci-crb-letter-20180821-story.html

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